Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Banjo versus TV: Week 12

Banjo 94 hrs, TV 63 hours
A weekly check-in on the Banjo versus TV project — J.R.'s resolution to spend more time in 2008 on his banjo than on TV.

No banjo lesson this last week, which was a week dominated by non-banjo activities.

I used my little bit of practice time effectively, I think, concentrating on two songs from my Hal Leonard book: Hand Me Down My Walkin' Cane and Hard Ain't It Hard. Man, those songs are easier to play when you syncopate 'em.

Also in the last week:

  • I played around with some plastic picks, following some instructions I found for shaping them with hot water. I dunno; they just feel funny. Maybe I'll come back to them at a future date.
  • Man, I am such a newbie. That bad job I did stringing my banjo last week? It sounds like things would have gone much better if I'd had a string winder. I didn't know such an item existed until I saw one on eBay on Thursday.
  • Spent some time on music theory this week, watching the DVD Understanding the Formula of Music. I really liked it. The narrator, Dan Huckabee of Musician's Workshop, has put together two tightly-packed hours of information and has made the subjects very clear and approachable. I came away from this DVD understanding a bunch of concepts that I'd been struggling with, such as diminished and augmented chords. I like Huckabee. I can see where some of the reviewers are coming from regarding his flat delivery style, but those folks should get over it and learn from a man who has an impressive bio. He's got some other DVDs that are available from his web site (and from Amazon and via NetFlix). His more recent DVD How to Figure Out Music from Recordings seems to cover much of the same material; perhaps it's the replacement for The Formula of Music. But if you want to see that newer DVD via NetFlix you'll have to get in line behind me; I've already added it to my queue.
  • One thing about that video, though: The logo for Musician's Workshop has been bugging me.

    What's with the lute-playing turtles? Are they supposed to remind us to take a slow and steady approach to learning music? Are they a response to critics' statements about Dan Huckabee's slow delivery style? Are they some oblique reference to the myth of Hermes and his creation of the first stringed instrument from a butchered turtle?
  • I was Googling up information on proper banjo posture when I came across this article about using the banjo as a weapon. An excerpt:
    You can cut your reaction time considerably by having a quick-release harness or wearing it on one shoulder like Earl Scruggs who claims he does it to avoid taking off his hat but you can tell by the way he holds the banjo that he's ready for action.
  • I watched my NetFlix copy of Best of the Flatt & Scruggs TV Show: Vol. 4 and it was every bit as much fun as the first three volumes. That brings me up-to-date with the series so far. Amazon says that volumes five and six should be out on April 1, 2008.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Hey J. R. thanks for the kind words about our DVD, Formula of Music and the turtles we use for our company logo. The turtles were drawn by a german illustrator from the 1800s named Heinrich Cley. Back in college i found a book of his illustrations at the library. I had a hard time choosing because there were lots of different drawings of turtles (and other animals) playing various musical instruments. Later i noticed the Grateful Dead used that same drawing on the cover of their album Terrapin Station, but they added paint to the drawing.